Felipe Calderon

Federal Judge Harry Hudspeth speaks about the laws affecting the gun export industry from the U.S. into Mexico at the Harry Ransom Center Wednesday. Hudspeth was one of three at UT who addressed border issues such as immigration, violence and drug-trafficking.

Photo Credit: Yaguang Zhu | Daily Texan Staff

An Iraq war veteran and UT student said he decided to research political violence along the U.S.-Mexico border after visiting his grandparents in a border town and seeing a grenade launcher in place to fortify their local pharmacy.

“You don’t need to go overseas to understand certain types of violence,” said John Meyer, comparative politics and political theory graduate student. “I think it’s important that we understand it here.”

Meyer, a Texan who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke Wednesday at a panel on drug trafficking, immigration and violence along the Rio Grande. Alongside Meyer were Federal Judge Harry Hudspeth from El Paso and journalist Dave Harmon, who has written about immigration policies for the Austin American-Statesman. The panel, held at the Harry Ransom Center on Wednesday, was the first in a series hosted by Rethinking Diplomacy, an organization new to UT this semester that aims to bring diplomacy considerations to the forefront of many areas of study, member Andrew Straw said. Straw, history graduate student, organized the panel.

“This is the first event we’ve ever had,” Straw said, “So we wanted to start with something very close to home in Texas.”

Harmon said border violence increased when current Mexican President Felipe Calderon took power and started breaking up cartels. Before Calderon took power, the previous political party was widely accused of accepting bribes from drug cartels. He said Mexican officials believe the United States is also to blame.

“[Americans] are the market,” Harmon said. “Drug trade wouldn’t exist if we didn’t like drugs so much and if we didn’t make them illegal.”

Harmon said many South and Central American governments are considering decriminalization as an option for decreasing violence, something America is not willing to do at this point. He said President Barack Obama dodged the issue at the Latin American Summit in April.

“The tide is turning politically in Mexico and South and Central America towards decriminalizing drugs,” Harmon said. “They’re starting to say, ‘we’ve lost this war, let’s admit it.’”

Meyer said the U.S. crackdown on methamphetamine labs pushed production to the south, and a strengthening against air and sea trafficking concentrated the conflict at the border. Combined with the political climate in Mexico, this created the “perfect storm” for drug-related border violence, he said.

“All human beings have an obligation to understand our own behavior,” Meyer said. “I was involved in a lot of political violence in Afghanistan and Iraq and I think I need to understand that.”

Printed on Thursday, September 20, 2012 as: Border conflicts spur talks on drugs, violence

In this Aug. 10, 2009, file photo, President Barack Obama, right, Mexico's President Felipe Calderon, center, and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper attend a North American summit in Gaudalajara, Mexico.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

President Barack Obama and the leaders of Canada and Mexico vowed a new effort Monday to boost North American trade — and cut needless regulation that stifles it — in a summit that aimed to shore up a fragile economic recovery.
After a one-day summit with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Obama said the United States has trimmed outdated and burdensome rules in talks with both its neighbors.

“Our three nations are going to sit down together, go through the books and simplify and eliminate more regulations that will make our joint economies stronger,” he said.

Obama noted trade among the three neighbors now tops $1 trillion a year, and he wants to see that number rise. “This is going to help create jobs,” he said.

The summit ranged broadly across issues of energy and climate change, immigration and the war on drugs.

But notable by its absence from a post-summit news conference in the Rose Garden was the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada’s oil sands in Alberta to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Obama shelved the plan pending further review, and has endured ferocious GOP attacks ever since, with Republicans calling the move a blow to job creation and U.S. energy needs. He maintains GOP leaders in Congress forced his hand by insisting on a decision before an acceptable pipeline route was found.

Harper has voiced disappointment with Obama’s decision. He also visited China in February to explore alternatives. Canada has the world’s third-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

Obama, Harper and Calderon will see each other later this month at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. They’re also well-known to each other from international gatherings, but are headed in different electoral directions.

While Obama faces a tough re-election battle for the next seven months, Calderon is term-limited. The battle to succeed him formally kicked off last week and will culminate with Mexican elections July 1. The main issue is the deadly war that his government has waged with drug cartels, which has claimed an estimated 47,000 lives.

By contrast, Harper, who has led Canada since 2006, appears secure in his job, having led his Conservatives from minority status to a majority in Parliament in elections last May. He doesn’t have to face voters again for four years.
Another reason Obama might envy Harper: Thanks to that majority, the budget Harper’s government introduced last week should pass easily, including its budget cuts designed to eliminate Canada’s deficit by 2015.

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — President Felipe Calderon on Thursday unveiled a “No More Weapons!” billboard made with crushed firearms and placed near the U.S. border. He urged the United States to stop the flow of weapons into Mexico.

The billboard, which is in English and weighs 3 tons, was placed near an international bridge in Ciudad Juarez and can be seen from the United States.

Calderon said the billboard’s letters were made with weapons seized by local, state and federal authorities.

“Dear friends of the United States, Mexico needs your help to stop this terrible violence that we’re suffering,” Calderon said in English during the unveiling ceremony.

“The best way to do this is to stop the flow of automatic weapons into Mexico,” he added.

Before unveiling the billboard, Calderon supervised the destruction of more than 7,500 automatic rifles and handguns at a military base in Ciudad Juarez.

Calderon said more than 140,000 weapons have been seized since December 2006, when he launched a crackdown against drug traffickers. More than 47,500 people have been killed since then.

One of the cities most affected by the violence is Ciudad Juarez, where more than 9,000 have died in drug violence since 2008.

Also Thursday, the country’s Attorney General said a federal prosecutor assigned to a northern state has been detained on suspicion of protecting the brutal Zetas drug cartel.

Attorney General Marisela Morales said federal prosecutor Claudia Gonzalez has been sent to prison. She didn’t say when Gonzalez was detained or give any other details.

Gonzalez was based in the city of Saltillo, capital of the border state of Coahuila.

The state on the border with Texas has seen a spike of violence as the Zetas and the Sinaloa drug cartel fight for control of drug smuggling routes into the United States.